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tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley.>> we begin tonight by taking a look at just how many of the march's calls for freedom have been realized. jobs demanded equal integration, universal unemployment and then into poverty, goals that have yet to .e realized class and race are still undeniable factors in holding back too many americans of all cultures and creeds and specifically, black americans.
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on whatwe will focus has changed and what still needs to be accomplished with dr. , and then wein will talk with two activists on the front lines in the fight for social justice, dr. mary frances berry and marian wright edelman. glad you have joined those conversations coming up right now. ♪
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by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: dr. algernon austin is the author of "the unfinished march." good to have you on this program, sir. i want to jump right in, there in-depth you have done research on to give us some sort of portrait of where we are and where we are not, 50 years later. i want to jump right in and go in this particular order. first, these ghettos of poverty. how is it, why is it that 50
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years after king tried to ring this bell, poverty is still threatening our democracy? how is it that poverty is now a matter of national security? >> the thing is is that there was some policies that importantly reduced poverty. but our commitment to poverty has really waned over the 70's, 80's, and in recent years. we have allowed a number of prevent all workers firm really sharing in prosperity. for example, one of the demands of the march was for a decent minimum wage. a minimum wage that would be worth today over at $13 an hour. today, the minimum wage is actually worth less than it was in 1963 in inflation-adjusted terms. although minimum-wage workers are better educated, they are we are, as a society
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much wealthier than we were in 1963, but the fact of the matter is, we have allowed the real value of the minimum wage to the road, and that means that many workers, low wage workers, cannot earn enough to lift your families out of poverty. we have also seen a decline of our manufacturing base, significant numbers of male workers have lost good jobs, and we have seen their wages declined. so perhaps more than half of male workers today are earning less than they would have earned 35 years ago. back to'm going to come minimum-wage versus living wage in just a second. these are my words, not yours. i do want your response to this. how is it that 50 years later, we cannot even seem to get a real conversation -- we cannot
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even get traction in washington talking about poverty. president barack obama and the members of congress, both the left and the right -- everybody has to it knowledge that they spend so much more time in washington talking about the middle class, they are obsessed, but we cannot get a conversation about poverty. why is that? >> you said it. it is a political sort of poll tested way to try to get that extra are centage point in terms of public opinion. that priorgs political leaders did, and certainly our civil rights leaders did, was they went against public opinion. they really said this is the morally right inc. to do, and we need to move the country in that direction. unfortunately, that type of leadership we don't see today. this president campaigned
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on raising the minimum wage. at one point, he was for raising it to even a higher level than he has suggested of late that he wants to raise it to. why is he negotiating against himself? why can't politicians understand that americans are hurting, that we need a living wage, not a minimum wage? >> that is really an important issue for the political scientist. the economic facts we have to really get out to the american terms,is that in real the wage has declined. today are earning less than they did in 1963, although they are better educated and more productive workers, and we are a richer company. it just does not make sense the fact that the minimum wage should be so low, given all the advances that we have made in education and productivity and
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the wealth of the country. real --s just been a over the last 30 years, disconnect between our policies. a realonger have national policy agenda that looks out for average americans, and certainly not for low income and poor americans. we have policies that really redistribute income and wealth to the wealthiest americans. i don't have time now to get into how bad these underemployment numbers are, but unemployment has run amok. african-americans still almost twice the national average when it comes to high unemployment. the unemployment numbers of black males pacific lee is completely off the charts. dash of black males specifically is completely off the charts. now what are we looking at? >> just to get back to where we were at the start of the
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recession, we need over 8 million jobs. if we want the black unemployment rate to be the same as the white unemployment rate, we will probably need another 2 million jobs. that is 10, 11 million jobs that we need there. a philip randolph, one of the key organizers for the march on washington, one of his primary concerns was he saw there were 6 million unemployed people and many more people in poverty. that was his primary concern. he said this is the crisis. look, we areld say worse off. i was complaining about 6 million, but now we are in a situation where there are 11 million workers who are unemployed, and millions more in poverty. that should be our primary national discussion, yet we have gone off -- we keep moving away
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from a real strong and important discussion about jobs and job creation. it is woefully unfair to ask you a question about the other issue raised in the study, unequal schools, but what say after theese years march on washington, all these years after brown versus board and pliny -- plessy burqas ferguson. many ways schools are still separate and unequal. >> it is like the minimum wage. it is quite shameful that we are in this situation. povertye of ghettos of and schools are all tied up to the fact that we still have high levels of segregation for african-americans in this society. and high levels of poverty. we need a new commitment to
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residential integration. everyone says education is the how can education be the key for african-americans when they are subjected -- and latino americans, for that matter -- when they are subjected to separate and unequal schooling. there is a fundamental contradiction there. tavis: a final quick question. if we have not made gains in 50 years, to your point we have lost ground in many of these areas that you lay out and this report -- how is it that you ,xpect that in the near future much less a distant future, that we can actually turn the tide against this data? beagain, we aren't going to able to turn the tide overnight. termsttle by little, in of the minimum wage, i think public opinion, the majority of
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the american public supports increasing it. we have some movement in congress. we have president obama saying it needs to be higher. that is something we can make some movement on. and certainly at the state level and the local level, we have seen living wage movements that have been effective. so unfortunately, it is a struggle. like the civil rights movement, it continues. it wasn't something that occurred in one year. dr. algernon austin, his latest work is called "the unfinished marches." dr. austin, thank you for your work and thank you for coming on to talk with us tonight. >> my pleasure, anytime. tavis: >> coming up next, conversation with mary frances berry and that chair of the
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defense fund, marian wright edelman. stay with us. joining us now from washington to talk about the work being done to bring jobs, justice, and freedom to all americans, marian wright edelman of the children's defense fund that advocates for children of all at this of these, and mary frances berry, former chair of the u.s. commission on civil rights and now professor of history at the university of pennsylvania. i am honored as always to have both of you on this program tonight. 50 years later, what do you think? >> it is one of those glass half -glass half empty. i think it is about a quarter full. i think a lot has been accomplished, some of it through the work that marian dozen other people, and the work you have done, tavis. but i think we are not anywhere near where we ought to be. the most important measures that
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, wect ordinary black people have some major problems that don't seem to be getting any better. everything from jobs to the kind of education their kids can get to the kind of healthcare they have access to, and the criminal justice system and all of its problems. i think we are in deep trouble. right after the civil war, during reconstruction, all the thek folks called it negroes hour. the hour had come and we were going to overcome. after the civil rights movement, we thought the negroes hour had come and we were going to overcome all of this, but i think we have a heck of a lot more to do. tavis: if i were to ask you to that isp a blame pie -- to say to put the blame where it belongs 50 years later for that glass not even being half-full, to your point, how do you sort out the blame for this?
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>> one problem is that many people who were in the civil rights movement went into politics, they went into business enterprise, they took advantage of the opportunities that were available, especially middle-class, educated folk. many of them went off and forgot about trying to do anything to help the masses of black people get ahead. who did, bute there are a lot who didn't. , we ceased making demands to hold politicians accountable. we loved to vote, and they love for us to vote for them, but the main thing is that we forgot that one of the things you're supposed to get out of voting is to make people be accountable. do, is what other people but black people, we forget about that. so we have not done what we should do. art of it also is people just taking for granted that everything is going to be ok, without doing anything.
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and the government, of course, not carrying out its responsibilities to promote the general welfare, including us. edelman,rian wright you were there with dr. king, working alongside him on the issues of property. if two years later, let me ask whether your heart is happy with the celebrations or heavy? >> both, but more heavy. we really want to get on with what we want to do to end child harvard he and family poverty in the richest nation on earth. we have 46 million poor people. when he died, there were 35 million. we have 16.1 million poor children. when he died, we had 11.5. of course the country's population has grown, but on the other hand, we are three times richer in gdp. while the safety net has , wended over these years
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did not have those safety nets in place. the fact is today we are on the verge of going backwards. rates,ok at the poverty -- in three black children if you look at what is happening with poverty rates, with changes in families and more mothers trying to struggle to make ends meet, you look at the unemployment rates, the young men who have never seen anybody working in their family, if you look at education, and we still have too many children in segregated and unequal schools. 80% of black children cannot read at grade level in fourth grade or eighth grade. if you look at the pipeline which all these things feed into, it is a dangerous intersection of race and poverty. what are you going to do if you cannot read in this globalizing world?
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one in three black boys today is going to go to prison if we don't stand up and build a movement. we cannot let this happen to our children on our watch. the hope of the civil rights movement is that our children will do better than we do. unless this community wakes up, the country wakes up and makes a big ruckus and says we are going to take care of our children, we are all going to go down together. you and your husband met doing this poverty work back in the civil rights era. you me some sense of how you -- had it we get traction on a conversation about poverty for americans across the board if we cannot even get a real conversation about the state of our children? we say we love our children, but if we cannot get a real conversation about that, how do we get a conversation writ large about eradicating poverty? >> we are going to have to make a lot of noise.
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we will be doing a lot of four ohms next you're on race and -- we will whether do a lot of forums on race and poverty. andave to tell the stories get the middle-class black and white folks to get out there and see what is happening. we've got to get everybody to wake up and understand that we aren't not like these poor black children or poor brown children. we are going to be an economically viable country in the future. are failinghat we to do as far as preparing a future workforce, future get into they cannot the military because i cannot read or compute. we've got a problem. >> we need everybody to use
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everything that comes to hand in the communities where they are as well as the national policy picture. stuff atto do some cornell to highlight that. some people got on board and some did not. the government and politicians don't even talk about poverty. they talk about the middle class. everybody is for the middle- class. but not about poverty. poverty, wel with will not deal with a lot of these problems. x you hit on something earlier about class. we are told that when the president gives his speech on wednesday at the same spot where dr. king stood 50 years ago, he is going to try to ride the two rails of race and class. that is what we are told the speech is going to talk about. i thought i heard you intimate in your first response to me that we have dropped the ball in our own community.
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talk to me about place. to me about class inside of black america. pre-k's lass has a lot to do with it. there are people that are so satisfied with their own situation, that they don't stop to realize how much they need to reach back to other people. they are just satisfied with denouncing people who are for and are in communities where there are problems, and not doing what they ought to do, and feeling like they got ahead on their own. i have heard so many people say that lately, that i did what i need to do by myself, so these people can pick up and do what they need to do by themselves. that is totally unrealistic. so there is a class problem in the black community as well as there being a class problem in the nations large among all the people who live here.
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why do you not believe that black children in particular in the black community writ large has fallen so far behind that we ain't never going to catch up, pardon my english. >> were going to catch up because we've got to catch up. we are investing our time and training the next generation of young servant leaders who are going to speak for themselves. the civil right movement did not come out of the upper class black folk. we are out organizing the poor in housing projects. we are organizing the next generation of leaders to fight the zero policies in our schools and talk about the imprisonment that is destroying our communities. we are going to build a movement. we need to remember what dr. king said at the end, because he was pretty depressed. we were integrating into a
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burning house, and we really had to have transformative efforts racism andh materialism. that is still the agenda today. tavis: we love and celebrate martin today, but he lived five years after the march and he was persona non grata by the time he died. what do you make of that echo >> we like the dr. king who was against violence, but we did not like the dr. king who was for militant nonviolence. we have trivialized and romanticized dr. king. we need not just to celebrate him him a we need to follow him. we need to sacrifice ourselves and understand that if our children go down, we are going down with them. this happen on our watch, shame on us. was famouslyng
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understood balis most of his life. now it seems like all the blacks in america are understood balis by the government. i saw a poll the other day that so many americans shrug their shoulders about being -- about the government snooping in digging. what do you make of polls like that, that some americans don't even care about this? >> when you look at polls and you ask americans about most questions, the disappointing thing is they give answers that make you wonder, did they teach civics in school? people say all the time, i'm not doing anything, so i don't care if the government has me under surveillance. if you are complaining about it, that means you have a problem. there needs to be more public education, awareness, or something, because we are really going down the tubes. >> marian wright edelman, you are one of the most hopeful people i know.
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>> determined. say a word to me about how we need to stay determined. pre-k's you better stay determined, because that is how our ancestors got us where we are. i wear my sojourner truth and harriet tubman medals every day. when harriet tubman went back to bring other folk along, and my favorite sojourner truth's day that are repeat all the time, she got heckled by an old white man one day who said he didn't care about her anti-slavery talk. that is all right, the lord willing, i am going to keep you scratching. miracle of the civil rights movement, a few people, all the people that said they work for dr. king, they did not work for dr. king. a few people put themselves on the line.
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we just need to get out there determined to save our children. don't stop biting until we move this to a dog of racism and poverty. tavis: these are authentic american she-roes. marian wright edelman, you stay determined. good to have you on this program as always. thank you for your insights. that's our show for tonight. join us tomorrow for the director of the king institute at stanford, and two of dr. king's children. until then, good night, and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with about the life and legacy with dr. king. that is next time.
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we will see you then. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. pb
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Tavis Smiley
PBS August 28, 2013 12:00am-12:31am PDT

News/Business. (2013) Dr. Algernon Austin, Marian Wright Edelman, Dr. Mary Frances Berry and Dr. Terrence Roberts. New. (CC) (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY Us 8, Dr. King 6, Marian Wright Edelman 5, Washington 5, Austin 3, Brown 2, Tavis Smiley 2, Mary Frances Berry 2, Harriet Tubman 2, Dr. Algernon 2, Marian 1, Obama 1, Dr. Mary Frances Berry 1, Barack Obama 1, Atto 1, Smiley 1, Bute 1, Tavis 1, Kqed 1, Philip Randolph 1
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